Take advantage of our Tree Recycling Program!

Wed December 13, 2017

Dec. 26 - Jan. 15
Drop off your used trees at two park locations. Bins will be set up in the parking lot at each park. Park staff will chip the trees into wood chips to be used in mulching projects throughout the District.

McCollum Park
6801 S. Main St.

Whitlock Park
40th & Fairview

Evergreens in Winter: Their Place, Inside and Outside of your Home

In most parts of the Midwest, evergreen trees and shrubs are planted to provide aesthetic and functional benefits in the landscape, but evergreens can have more meaning in winter.

In ancient civilizations, plants that remained green all year had special meaning to people in winter, especially around the time of the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year.  It was thought that during this time, the sun was sick and weak, and the solstice was then celebrated because it meant the sun would start to get healthier as the days grew longer.  Decorations of evergreen boughs reminded them of when the plants would begin to grow again and summer would return. The Egyptians, Romans, Druids and Vikings all decorated with green plants with this in mind.

In Downers Grove, many families decorate their homes with evergreen roping, mistletoe and evergreen trees as part of a holiday tradition that really only became established in the U.S. in the 1840s. The use of Christmas trees started with the Germans in the 16th century, and gradually spread across Europe over time. Only when the holiday trees became popular with Queen Victoria in England, did holiday trees make the jump to this country.

A few Christmas tree facts:
Christmas trees have been sold commercially since 1850; Most trees are cut weeks before they get to a retail outlet (this is an important fact to remember, if you purchase a cut tree); It takes 6 to 10 years for a tree to become ready for harvest (a height of 6 feet, depending on species); 25 to 30 million trees are harvested nationally each year and 1 to 3 seedlings are planted for each tree harvested. There are currently 350 million Christmas trees growing on farms across the USA. Boughs are also cut and used for other decorations – wreaths, roping and ground cover. For a fresh tree, there are several farms throughout the Chicago area that offer the opportunity to pick and cut your own tree.

In the landscape, evergreens provide a variety of benefits in the winter.  When properly planted, evergreens can help reduce energy consumption in the winter by acting as a windbreak.  Evergreens provide cover and food for wildlife during a time when both are scarce. Aesthetically, not many things are as beautiful as a clear winter day, with bright blue skies and a fresh dusting of snow on a spruce or pine tree.

At home, you can help your planted evergreens get through the winter by making sure they are watered in well at the end of the growing season, before the ground freezes.  Evergreens, which keep their foliage all winter long, will continue to transpire water through their needles, which can lead to winter drying. Mulching under them with wood chips can also help to retain soil moisture. Also, when the heavy, wet snows hit, it can be beneficial to try to get that weight off of the boughs to avoid limb breakage or misshapen plants after the melt.

There are a number of evergreens that thrive in our area, and would be a great addition to your home landscape. Information on these can be found in a variety of reference books, or by consulting with local landscape experts.